Drupa needs reinvention, says Muller Martini’s Adrian Mayr

The four-day virtual.drupa 2021 is not redundant – Muller Martini

Muller Martini's SzóKép printing machine
Muller Martini's SzóKép printing machine

The four-day virtual.drupa 2021 took place from 20 to 23 April 2021. According to Adrian Mayr, head of product management and corporate marketing at print finishing service provider Muller Martini, the event was a good experiment. Still, in the long run, drupa needs to reinvent itself given the rapid change the industry is witnessing.

“I think it’s good that the virtual.drupa 2021 experiment has been dared [attempted] – both from the point of view of drupa and from the point of view of a machine manufacturer,” Mayr says in a recent blog post. “Because it is important that our industry marks its presence and is not forgotten. That’s why it was clear to us from the very beginning that we wanted to be represented at this virtual trade show.”

Print finishing’s importance is always underestimated

He said that drupa has always been important for Muller Martini and the company wanted to highlight the importance of print finishing, which is still often underestimated. However, since the physical drupa was canceled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Mayr says that there have been voices arguing that large trade shows such a drupa are no longer keeping with the times – especially in an industry like print that is no longer booming.

“They [large trade shows] are too expensive for the suppliers and for the visitors, some of whom travel from far away. However, I don’t believe that drupa has outlived its usefulness. But it has to reinvent itself – and that’s where the exhibitors undoubtedly also play an important role,” he says.

The colossal expense is no longer manageable for many machine manufacturers. That’s why, in the future, what’s needed is no longer large stand areas with impressive machinery but top innovations, the demonstration of solutions for attractive end-products, and new business models. In addition, exhibitors must address print shops and bookbinders, and other segments such as publishers or agencies. “In short, we want to achieve a comparable effect with less resources,” Mayr says.

 The social components as a drupa success factor

Mayr says that he is looking forward to the physical drupa in 2024. In addition, he states that the Muller Martini stand will continue to offer added value in the future. But he cannot say what the company’s drupa format will look like in 2024 – and whether it will also have virtual elements on the stand, such as live links to its training centers.

“One thing I do know for sure, however, is that I’m already looking forward to direct contact with you,” he says. “After all, the social component, the formal and informal conversations on the stand and over dinner, are a key success factor of drupa as a marketplace for our industry in general – and for strengthening our corporate brand.”

Virtual.drupa 2021 allowed Muller Martini to present its machine portfolio

Mayr says that since the onset of the pandemic, there have been countless online events. Nevertheless, virtual.drupa had a special significance for him, he said. And for three reasons.

First, the drupa brand acts as a magnet and radiates internationality, whereas many webinar offerings tend to have a regional character – if only for linguistic reasons. Secondly, virtual.drupa 2021 covered the entire spectrum of the graphic arts industry, whereas online webinars are usually limited to a specific range of topics. And thirdly, virtual.drupa 2021 allowed Muller Martini to present a large part of its machine portfolio directly on the virtual.drupa 2021 website and, as a supplement, in its online showroom.

The shortcomings of the virtual.drupa

Although Mayr did not have the figures of the detailed traffic figures or the visitor leads, the start was promising for Muller Martini. On an opening day, the number of clicks on its website was higher than it had been for a month. And Mayr received a few concrete inquiries on the first two days of the trade show. “However, the company’s web session – ‘Muller Martini: Your strong partner – driving the digital transformation in print finishing’ by Volker Leonhardt, group management and head of global sales, and Georg Riva, head of sales, would have deserved a bit more participants, if I’m honest,” he said. So there we have it – a loyal exhibitor admitting that the virtual.drupa drew a lukewarm response for whatever reason – web or webinar fatigue or other shortcomings.

Talking about leads, Mayr says that it will contact the customers as soon as the company has received them from the drupa organization. “I’m particularly curious to see how many people we haven’t met yet are among them. Frankly, however, my expectations in this regard – unlike at a real drupa – are not too high,” he says. “Because at virtual.drupa 2021, unfortunately, some well-known manufacturers of digital presses were not present. I think that’s a shame because Muller Martini is the market leader in this segment with its Finishing 4.0 solutions.” 


2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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